Jakarta, 19 January 2018
A Christian Pilgrim
RABBI, WHERE ARE YOU STAYING?
(A biblical reflection on the SECOND ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR B], 14 January 2017)
Gospel Reading: John 1:35-42
First Reading: 1Samuel 3:3-10,19; Psalms: Psalm 40:2,4,7-10; Second Reading: 1Corinthians 6:13-15,17-20
The Scripture Text
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard Him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, “What do you seek?” And they said to Him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (John 1:35-42 RSV)
In today’s Gospel reading, two of John the Baptizer’s disciples address Jesus as “Rabbi”, which means “teacher”. In those days, a rabbi was the most educated person in a city or town and because he was usually the only one who could read or write fluently, the people paid him a great deal of respect.
There were two types of rabbis in Jesus’ day. The first type used the Sacred Scripture to teach Jewish boys how to read and write in the synagogue school. These boys were preparing for the day when they would become adults in their faith, obligated to following all of the Jewish laws.
The second type of rabbi, a master rabbi, taught other men how to be rabbis and provided his disciples with food and shelter while he instructed them. The disciples, in turn, worked for the master rabbi. Jesus was this type of rabbi.
Because both types of rabbis were knowledgeable about the Sacred Scripture and because that’s where the Jewish laws are, the townspeople consulted the rabbis whenever they had a question about how they should interpret a particular law. Sometimes, lively public debates took place when two or more rabbis offered different opinions. Since there are many examples of people coming to Jesus seeking His advice, we can conclude that Jesus also engaged in public debates with the other rabbis of His day.
The rabbi was not the Jewish version of a priest or minister. Rabbis did not (and still do not) lead the synagogue services, and they did not offer sacrifices in the Temple. Rather, teaching was their main function.
Religious education was very important to the Jewish people who lived in Jesus’ day. It was a lifelong pursuit and not something only children engage in.
Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 160-161.)
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, You ask me what do I seek. Pour Your grace into me now and show me my soul’s answer. Heal me where I need to be healed that I might follow You with my whole heart, soul, and strength and bring others to You. I also pray for catechists and other religious educators who teach in my parish. Amen.
Jakarta, 11 January 2018
A Christian Pilgrim
THE DAY WHEN WE CELEBRATE THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST TO THE GENTILES
(A biblical reflection on THE SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD, Sunday, 7 January 2018)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 2:1-12
First Reading: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalms: Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-13; Second Reading: Ephesians 3:2-3,5-6
The Scripture Text
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern My people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star appeared, and he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found Him bring me word, that I too may come and worship Him.” When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:1-12 RSV)
Today is Epiphany Sunday, the day when we celebrate the revelation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. Matthew tells us that wise men “from the East” came to Israel looking for “the child who has born king of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1-2). When they finally found Him, they “offered Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11). What unusual presents to bring to a little baby!
Throughout the ages, many spiritual writers have reflected on the meaning of these gifts. St. Bede the Venerable [672/3-735] taught that gold, because it was so valuable, signified kingship. Frankincense, which was burned in the shrines of numerous deities, represented divinity. And myrrh, a spicy resin used for embalming the dead, was meant to point to Jesus Passion. Similarly, Saint Irenaeus [130-202], one of the Church Fathers, understood the gifts to reflect different aspects of Jesus’ incarnation: gold for a king, frankincense for a high priest, myrrh for a sacrificial victim.
Much more recently, Saint Edith Stein [1891-1942] offered another interpretation of the three gifts. She equated gold with obedience, myrrh with death to self, and frankincense with the purity of our devotion to Him.
These are all fascinating interpretations, and they all can give us much to think about and meditate on. But each in its own way, these three approaches ask us the same question: How far will we go to meet Jesus? What gifts are willing to offer to the Lord? The gifts that the Magi offered were all costly. Evidently, they were willing to pay a high price because they sensed that something special had happened in Bethlehem. They were willing not only to give away precious materials but also to take a long, dangerous journey over the desert to meet and worship this new king. They considered the sacrifice to be worthy because of the hope and promise they found in Jesus.
Bede, Irenaeus, and Edith Stein all felt a connection with the Magi because like these ancient seers, they too had been captivated by Jesus and wanted to give Him their whole lives. Like all those who have gone before us, may the revelation of Christ in our hearts compel us to lay down our lives before Him in worship and adoration.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I come to You as an open vessel. Shine Your light upon my life and guide me closer to You. Amen.
Jakarta, 4 January 2018 [Memoria: St. Angela of Foligno, Franciscan Tertiary]
A Christian Pilgrim
LIKE MARY, WE CAN WALK CONFIDENTLY IN THE BLESSING AND PEACE OF THE LORD
(A biblical refection on THE SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD – Monday, 1 January 2018)
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE
First Reading: Numbers 6:22-27
Psalms: Psalm 67:2-3,5-6,8; Second Reading: Galatians 4:4-7; Gospel Reading: Luke 2:16-21
The Scripture Text
The LORD said to Moses, “Say to Aaron and his sons, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.
So shall they put My name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22-27 RSV)
As we stand at the threshold of a new year, the church reaffirms God’s promise to bless us and keep us (Numbers 6:24). In celebrating the feast of Mary the Mother of God, we proclaim the glorious truth that in Mary’s womb the Second Person of the Trinity united Himself completely with our humanity. “Taking a body like our own, because all our bodies were liable to … death, He surrendered His body to death in place of all. … Through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all were clothed with incorruption” (Saint Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 8,9).
In Mary, we see the portrait of one who knew God’s face shining upon her, filling her with grace (Numbers 6:25). Looking upon her with love and showering her with divine grace, God prepared her to say “yes” to His plan that she bear His Son in this world. As Mary consented in faith, the Father gave her His peace (Numbers 6:26), continually encouraging her to trust Him as she saw His plan unfold. How deeply she must have needed this peace, as she faced dangerous and frightening circumstances (Luke 2:4-7; Matthew 2:13-15)! In each situation, Mary learned to trust more fully that God would bless her and keep her (Number 6:24).
Because the Son of God took flesh in Mary’s womb, we too can share in these wonderful blessings. We have been baptized into Christ, we have a share in His divinity, and in His humanity. We are heirs of the blessings that God gave to Israel and in a particular way to Mary, the beloved Daughter of Zion.
Like Mary, we can walk confidently in the blessing and peace of the Lord. The Son of God, who left His throne to become one like us, has conquered sin and death for all of us. Each day, we can freely receive the life of Jesus into our hearts simply by responding “yes” to the Lord’s call, just as Mary did. By Jesus’ sanctifying blood, we hve been made vessels of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to cry out “Abba! Father!” as true daughters and sons of God (Galatians 4:6-7). The Lord is not far off, but very near; indeed, He dwells within us through His Holy Spirit. Let us turn to Him and allow His blessing, grace, and mercy to shine upon us.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray for peace. As we celebrate the first day of the new year, may the King of heaven and earth, who was born through Mary, The Mother of God and Queen of Peace, reign in our hearts and make us instruments of peace. We pray this in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 30 December 2017
A Christian Pilgrim